By Anne O’Connor
“That is a girl!”
As soon as she saw the picture of the black and white duck with red around the face arrived in her email, Pam Nixon, an animal care supervisor at the Nevins Farm identified the bird as a female Muscovy duck. The farm is part of the Massachusetts Prevention of Cruelty to Animals system.
Two years ago, near a body of water in the Nashoba Valley that will remain unnamed, a juvenile duck walked right up to a fence.
“I named him Norman,” the homeowner said. The duck quickly became part of the couple’s life.
“I guess her name is Norma,” she said, willing to roll with the punches when told that Nixon said the duck is a girl.
The homeowner asked that all identifying features of the location be omitted from the story. She said she feared something bad could happen to their adopted duck.
“She’s wonderful and I just absolutely adore her,” she said.
Where Norma comes from, nobody knows. “All of a sudden one day she was out there,” the homeowner said.
There are a number of areas around the state where people have released or abandoned domestic ducks and geese, thinking they will fend for themselves, said H. Heusmann a wildlife waterfowl biologist from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife in an email through the northeast division office.
If the animal were a dog or cat, the action would be considered inhumane, the email said.
Muscovy ducks are not well-equipped to survive New England winters, Nixon said. Native to Mexico and southern Texas, they lack some of the oil and down that enable cold-weather survival.
“They’re a domesticated bird,” Nixon said. “They really should be in a situation where someone is taking care of them.”
Not to worry.
“We made a little house for her,” the homeowner said.
Norma’s diet gets close attention.
“I buy cracked corn at the feed store,” the woman said. “Then they told me I could add split peas, lentil and oats.”
Every day, just past noon, her husband goes down to the water to feed the duck.
“She does her happy, little dance,” the woman said. “She loves cracked corn more than anything.”
Norma is adapting to her life of freedom.
The duck has grown three times in size since she appeared at the fence. She has also gotten more independent.
“She used to come right up to the patio twice a day,” the homeowner said. Now, usually, she remains near the water.
There was one time that was a little different.
“I had seen her head to the barn,” the homeowner said. Later, the couple discovered six huge eggs and were not sure if they were goose or duck eggs.
Norma has become part of their life.
“I talked to her this afternoon when I came home,” the homeowner said. “She’s really quite personable. She does come in the summer when I call her.”
So if you see a big Muscovy duck hanging around a body of water, know that it is a cherished animal.
“She’s very cool and we love her,” the homeowner said.
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